With an embarrassment of awards-circuit riches thus far, American Hustle might trump presumed front-runner 12 Years a Slave to earn a permanent seat at the crowded Best Picture Winner’s table – a table full of films we can’t believe even got a spot on the seating chart.
As everyone scrambles to predict who will win the Big Prize, Fandango takes a look at 10 previous Best Picture winners that don’t quite hold up.
By Phil Pirrello
1. Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
What Should Have Won: The Ten Commandments
How this film trumped DeMille’s classic epic makes our brain cry. This adaptation of the Jules Verne novel was considered a non-threat to contenders Giant, The King and I and Commandments. The lesson here? English men flying hot air balloons is to Academy Members as laser pointers are to cats.
2. Chariots of Fire (1981)
What Should Have Won: Reds or Raiders of the Lost Ark
Look, we have considerable care space for Vangelis as the next slightly embarrassed fan does. But even we know that the story of a bunch of Brits running in slow slow-mo doesn’t hold a candle to the Warren Beatty’s powerful epic or Steven Spielberg’s first (best) Indiana Jones film.
3. Gandhi (1982)
What Should Have Won: E.T.
Ideally, a Best Picture winner is more a movie you want to see than one that you feel that you should see. Gandhi falls under the latter, unfortunately. Aside from the cinematography, the only other thing that holds up well in his languid three-hour biopic is Ben Kingsley’s Oscar-winning performance.
4. Ordinary People (1980)
What Should Have Won: Raging Bull
One of the biggest Movie Crimes in the history of always is People’s sentimental win over Martin Scorsese’s boxing classic. As great as People’s script and performances are, only one of these films is the subject of consistent study both in and out of film school. If Oscar could ever give itself a do-over, we’d start here.
5. Dances With Wolves (1990)
What Should Have Won: Goodfellas
Another candidate for do-over status. Actor-director Kevin Costner competently directs a sweeping tale of finding one’s self in the middle of a country torn apart by Civil War. But c’mon, it's Goodfellas. Twenty years later it's the film you still hear on the receiving end of any loud “One of the Best Movies Ever” discussion. It’s the film you watch whenever it’s on cable. The film that should have won the Oscar.
6. Driving Miss Daisy (1989)
What Should Have Won: Born on the Fourth of July
While the Academy nominated Oliver Stone’s heartbreaking Vietnam film Fourth of July for Best Picture, they clearly didn’t watch it. How else can you explain this perfect film’s loss to the very safe movie where Morgan Freeman drives one of the old ladies from Cocoon around?
7. The English Patient (1996)
What Should Have Won: Fargo
Patient, which earned Harvey Weinstein a reputation for bullying his films to Best Picture wins, all but flashes the words “For Your Consideration” on the screen after every one of it's Oh So Important/Pretentious scenes – to the point where it distracts from the impressive acting and photography. Fargo has “Must Watch Again” written all over it. English Patient? Not so much.
8. Forrest Gump (1994)
What Should Have Won: Pulp Fiction or The Shawshank Redemption
Everyone got swept up in Gump Fever. Hell, even Siskel and Ebert did a special “Why Gump? Why Now?” segment on their show to explain the tractor beam-like effect the sentimental dramedy had on audiences. Now 20 years later, both time and hindsight tell us that Pulp Fiction and Shawshank are more deserving of the big win and that Forrest should have settled for a box of chocolates.
9. Crash (2005)
What Should Have Won: Brokeback Mountain
This win still has some of Hollywood shaking their heads. Despite a preachy center, Best Director nom and co-writer Paul Haggis managed to sway voters in favor of his interweaving tale of social and racial division. While a lot of people saw Crash, few talked about it with the passion they reserved for Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain – a more nuanced, more deserving film.
10. Shakespeare in Love (1998)
What Should Have Won: Saving Private Ryan
Shakespeare in Love is an inventive comedy with a clever script and fun performances – the first comedy to win Best Picture since Annie Hall in 1977. To say this movie is better than one of Spielberg’s five best is, well, it’s just not true. While the filmmaker took home the Best Director prize, his mantel was robbed of a second trophy. “Earn this” indeed, Shakespeare…
So what do you think? Do these films warrant being knocked down a peg or six, or are they fine just where they are? Sound off in the comments.